Being pulled over by law enforcement, for any reason, is an unnerving experience, and if the stop occurs in the middle of the night, one can assume it is related to suspicion of DUI, or driving under the influence. DUI charges bring serious restrictions on a person’s ability to drive, which only increase if a conviction is secured. Working with an experienced criminal law attorney to challenge the validity of the prosecution’s case is crucial to mitigating the potential consequences. A lot of different things occur during a standard DUI stop as police attempt to gather evidence to support an arrest, and it is easy to get overwhelmed and inadvertently give up rights. By understanding what police expect the driver to do, and the options drivers have to protect their rights, individuals will be able to better identify potential violations if they were pulled over, and how best to react during a future stop to minimize evidence of intoxication.
Must a Driver Pull Over?
When police signal to a driver that the officer wants the vehicle to pull off to the side of the road, the driver must comply. Georgia law requires that all drivers yield to emergency vehicles if their lights are on, and failure to do so can result in additional charges, as well as unwanted attention. Even if a driver has no idea why the officer is stopping them, it is best to follow this order, and pull over in the first available safe area.
Law enforcement officers will ask the driver and/or passengers a series of questions during the stop, starting with a request for driver’s license and registration, which eventually leads to inquiries about alcohol consumption in the preceding hours. Drivers should stay calm and polite during all interactions with police, but provide as little information as possible without an attorney present. Police use these questions to elicit slurred speech and other signs illegal activity is present, so the less the police have to use, the harder it will be to justify an arrest.
The U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, and police need probable cause or a warrant to legally search a person or a property. Note, though, that an exception to this rule is made for DUI checkpoints, as long as the proper protocol is followed. In addition, if the driver consents to the search, a warrant is no longer necessary, but one never knows what will support the police’s case, so consent to search should not be given.
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are measures that police use to assess the level of intoxication a person is experiencing, but they are not scientifically validated for this purpose. Further, whether a person passes or fails is a subjective determination by police, which on its face is unfair. These tests are voluntary in Georgia, and should be refused when requested by police.
Finally, chemical testing is the benchmark for proving someone is guilty of DUI, and Georgia, like many, is an implied consent state, meaning drivers consent to this testing by being on the roads. Refusal results in an automatic license suspension, but repercussions may be justified if there is a concern the results would come back high or be otherwise inaccurate.
Speak to a LaGrange Criminal Law Attorney
Criminal charges are serious, and can completely upend a person’s life. If you are facing a criminal case, and need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights, talk to the attorneys at Moffitt Law, LLC. They know the pressure you are under, and the stakes if you lose, and will fight to get you the best possible outcome. Contact the LaGrange office for a free consultation.